The Houses of Parliament in London, history and location

Parliament building in London – Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The luxurious building of the Palace of Westminster is one of the most majestic in London. It is what tourists associate with the British capital. The palace has architectural, cultural and political value.

During its millennia of existence the palace managed to become home to dozens of monarchs and the repository of the most important documents of the kingdom, after which it was almost completely destroyed by fire. Today’s Parliament building is one of the most important for England and Great Britain.

Where is the palace

The magnificent building is located in the Westminster district, on the left bank of the Thames, London’s most famous river. The palace connects with Trafalgar Square. Previously visitors were not allowed here, but since 2004 the palace has been open to tourists.

Address: Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

Westminster Palace is the seat of Parliament and tours are allowed while the representatives of the Houses are on leave. It begins on August 7 and ends on September 16.

Visiting times vary depending on the day of the week:

Days of the Week. Office Hours
Monday, Friday 9:15-16:30
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 13:15-16:30
Saturday, Sunday Off Days

The Queen Elizabeth Dressing Room, Art Gallery, Meeting Rooms and Westminster Hall, the oldest surviving part of the palace, are available to visit. Not long ago it became possible to attend meetings of the Chambers. You can visit at any time of the year.

For the most inquisitive, audio tours are sold. You can buy them at the ticket office, 5 minutes after the opening of the tourist area. Interval: 15 min. English-language guided tours run from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The tour starts after a group of wishing tour. Usually it is not more than 20 min.

Guided tours in Russian are conducted twice a day. The first – at 13:40, the second – at 16:15. It is recommended to book tours in advance, as wanting in the “peak” season more than seats. The audio tour – 1.5 hours before the start, with a guide – 2 hours.

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The original offering for lovers of British culture is “Afternoon tea.” At 13:30 and 15:15 tourists can attend a tea party in the building of the London Parliament.

Current prices for 2019:

students – £15;

pensioners – 15 pounds;

Children under 15 – £7;

as part of a group – from £14;

children under 15 – £10;

You can buy admission tickets at Abington Green Street. The ticket office is opposite the Victoria Tower.

History of the building

The Houses of Parliament in London are named after the borough where they were built. Westminster is one of the historic districts of the capital, which was founded in the VII century. On the site of the palace previously was another building – the residence of the English king. At that time, the site was in seclusion (there was only a monastery nearby) and the poor did not harass members of the royal family.

The place was heavily swamped. After the swamp was drained, construction began, and in 1042 the new residence, was ready. In 1097, Westminster Hall was added to the building and later remodelled several times.

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The residence survived until 1834, when a fire engulfed it in the fall. Only Westminster Hall, Undercroft Chapel, Palace Hall and the Jewels’ Tower survived. The Houses of Parliament were built on that site.

In 1835 some of the halls were restored, and in 1836 construction of a new palace began. In 1840 construction began. The main hall – for the meeting of the House of Lords, was built in seven years. In another five years the House of Commons meeting room was finished. In general the building was ready by 1860, but some work continued until the middle of the XX century.

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Architectural style and appearance of the palace

The author of the current design of the Palace of Westminster was Charles Barry. The architect was already known to the inhabitants of Europe as the creator of impressive palaces, monuments and gardens. The project called for a massive quadrangular building with a façade overlooking the River Thames. The style of the palace is neo-Gothic. The main decoration of the palace is the central tower over 50 m high.

Later changes were made to the project. As a result the building is decorated with 3 towers, the tallest of which is the Victoria Tower (98.4 m). The Houses of Parliament in London has impressive parameters. Its length is several hundred meters.

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Inside the Palace

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

For the interior decoration was responsible Augustet Pugin – an artist who was also co-author of the architectural design of the palace. The main distinguishing feature of the interior is the relief and texture of the walls. The walls and ceilings are decorated with panels with carvings, moldings, mosaics, and grottos.

At that time pompous decorations, bright colors, gilding, and lots of details were popular among the nobility. In many rooms the floors are blue or bright yellow, and the walls are scarlet. The interior design of the palace is in a single luxurious style, but no single room’s interior is repeated.

In total there are 1200 rooms, more than a hundred staircases, and the total length of the corridors is 5 km. In addition to meeting rooms and traditional ceremonies, the palace houses galleries, treasure rooms, concert halls, libraries, waiting rooms, bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, restrooms and bathrooms, checkrooms, and staff quarters.

Royal Gallery

The Parliament building begins with the main entrance and the Royal Staircase. Next is the hallway leading to the checkroom. Nearby is the Royal Gallery. This is one of the largest rooms of the palace – its area is almost 600 m 2 . Inside there is a rich decoration.

The walls are decorated with slightly faded ancient frescoes, portraits of all the British kings and queens who lived in London and statues of successful generals. There is a long tradition in the palace: a procession of lords passes through the gallery before Parliament opens. In the same room foreign guests are received.

The House of Lords’ Meeting Room

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

One of the most sumptuous rooms at the Palace of Westminster. The interior is in the typical “royal” colors: bright scarlet, emerald, brown and gold. Red is the color of lords.

It dominates all the rooms belonging to the House of Lords. An interesting part of the small room is the royal throne with a canopy at its end. Near the throne is laid a cushion intended for the chief lord.

Along the walls are a few rows of leather-clad benches. The area to the left of the monarch is secular. Members of the opposition sit there. On the right is for the lords of the clergy and members of the ruling party.

The lounges of the peers

The couloirs are auxiliary rooms designed for relaxation and meetings in an informal setting. The couloirs of peers are a square room adjoining the House of Lords.

The height of the ceilings is more than 10 m. The main decoration of the marble floor is a mosaic in the form of the Tudor rose, the emblem of England. The main decoration is the massive doors of copper, which weigh 1.5 tons. From the room a corridor leads to the Central hall.

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The Central hall.

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The octagonal room, above which the Central Tower is located. This room is the intersection of several corridors that lead to the stalls of the House of Lords, the House of Commons, St Stephen’s Hall and the library.

The maximum height of the ceilings is 25 m. The most interesting part of the hall are the four mosaics above the doors.

They depict the patrons of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, part of Great Britain:

  • St. George.
  • St. Andrew.
  • St. David.
  • St. Patrick.

This is one of the largest rooms of the Palace – its diameter is 18 m.

The Saloon of the House of Commons

The room is also used for recreation and informal socializing. During the Second World War the couloirs were almost destroyed by bombing. The room was restored, but now has a more modest interior.

One of the doors remained in a half-destroyed state. In this way the members of the House of Commons decided to leave a reminder of the horrors of war. At the entrance are sculptures of W. Churchill and D. L. George, political figures who helped England survive both world wars.

The meeting room of the House of Commons

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The Parliament building in London is known primarily as the meeting place of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It is a relatively new hall – it was completely destroyed during World War II and then rebuilt.

Externally it is similar to the House of Lords, but the contrast is immediately felt – the wooden furnishings are complemented by furniture of a tranquil green color. In the middle of the room there is a place for a speaker. There are 427 seats for listeners. As in the case of the Lords, the right side of the hall is occupied by representatives of the ruling party, while the left side is occupied by representatives of the opposition.

Westminster Hall.

A room that has retained its appearance from medieval times. The hall was built in the eleventh century and since then the roof has been replaced and minor restoration work has been carried out. The roof was replaced 500 years ago – it is an impressive ornate construction of oak rafters. Previously they were supported by columns, which have now been dismantled.

Originally the lobby was used for sumptuous festivities and official ceremonies (coronations, memorial services for members of the royal family). Later the main British courts sat there, which were eventually merged into a single Supreme Court. For example, Guy Fawkes and the founder of the British-Indian colony Warren Hastings were tried in the building.

Jewel Tower

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

An unassuming 700-year-old structure. It survived a major fire in 1834. Predominantly they were closet items, jewelry and art objects.

Despite his love of jewels and controversial foreign policy decisions, he laid down one of the most important traditions for British power – convocations of parliament. For this reason, the theme of the exhibition in the Jewel Tower is the history of the British Parliament.

Victoria Tower

The building got its name in honor of Queen Victoria, who was a contemporary of architect Charles Barry, the creator of the palace project. She herself symbolically laid the first stone in its foundation.

Several hundred years ago the purpose of the tower was to store the records of the House of Commons. The archive building, along with all its papers, burned down in 1834.

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The basis of the building is a cast-iron frame, secured by masonry. The tower has 14 stories in all. It is it that houses the grand entrance to the Palace of Westminster – the Sovereign’s Entrance.

It is the high arch through which the British monarch arrives for ceremonies. On ordinary days, the Union Jack, the official British flag, flutters at the peak of the tower. On days when the King or Queen is inside, it is replaced by the Royal Standard, the official flag of the monarch.

Big Ben

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

The highest point of the palace is often considered to be Big Ben. In reality, the tower, named after Queen Victoria, is 240 cm taller. However, this does not prevent Big Ben from being one of the most famous towers in the world.

The official name of the landmark is “Elizabeth Tower. It was changed in 2012. Then the British were celebrating a round date – 60 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The name “Big Ben” was retained for a huge bell weighing more than 12 tons, which is located on the structure.

On each side of it there are dials, which allows people to see the time displayed, regardless of their location. The clock is 55 meters above the ground.

What else to see at the Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament in London are an impressive structure symbolizing the power and nobility of Britain. In order to preserve the privacy of members of Parliament and the royal family, tourists have limited access to the rooms.

Another room accessible to tourists is the Queen’s Robing Room. It is a spacious hall with luxurious decor – numerous panels, moldings, and mosaic tiles are decorated in gilt. Medieval frescoes depicting royal feasts hang on the walls, and at the end of the room on a pedestal is a throne.

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

It is not a repository of royal clothing, as the name might suggest, but the place where the monarch puts on the State Crown and ceremonial robes. Next, the clothed king or queen goes to the House of Lords.

The throne is over 200 years old.

It is decorated with a canopy, and next to it are the symbols of the countries of the United Kingdom:

  • Red Rose – England.
  • Thistle – Scotland.
  • Trefoil (cloverleaf) – Ireland.
  • Monogram of Queen Victoria.

The floor is decorated with heraldic symbols of famous British families. The ceiling is the monograms of Britain’s monarchs.

When the House of Commons was destroyed in hostilities, for some years the Lords lent their hall to its representatives, while they themselves held meetings in the royal dressing-room when necessary. It was then temporarily fitted out for official meetings: benches were put up and even a replica of the Lord Speaker’s cushion was made.

Next to the Palace of Westminster is Westminster Abbey, one of the local religious buildings, immortalized in hundreds of books, paintings and films. The church is in Gothic style – since the Middle Ages British monarchs have been crowned and buried there. Westminster Abbey is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Westminster Abbey is a place where ancient and modern Christian culture merge. Many buildings have survived since 1042, when construction of the church began. In 1269 several more buildings were completed.

At the end of the twentieth century, statues of saints, who were numbered among the martyrs, were placed on the facade of the building. A total of 10 statues were created. Also inside you can find works by modern icon painters. For example, the Russian artist Sergei Fedorov, whose icons have been kept in the abbey since 1994.

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Interesting facts about Westminster Abbey and the palace

Some interesting facts about the life of the British Parliament:

Parliament building in London - Palace of Westminster. Photos, description, interesting facts

  • Any Briton can get a ticket to the Gallery of the House of Commons from the MP who represents his or her region. The Lords can also present tickets to visit the Gallery of the House of Lords.
  • Educational institutions in the United Kingdom can make a request to members of Parliament or the House of Lords for a tour of the Palace of Westminster. Students will still not be able to see the entire building, but some new palace locations will be open to the public.
  • Those wishing to enter the Chambers performance must go through a rigid security checkpoint. The visitor is then given a memo listing the rules of conduct during the meeting. There is a separate area for guests, in which complete silence must be observed.
  • The famous fire of 1834, which destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster, is depicted in the painting “The Burning of The Houses of Lords and Commons”. Its author – William Turner, who witnessed the tragedy.
  • It is officially forbidden to die in the Houses of Parliament. The absurd law has been broken once – 300 years ago Prime Minister Spencer Percival was shot dead there. It is a legal prohibition, the violation of which results in a fine for the family of the deceased.
  • One of the palace’s halls, Westminster Hall, is associated with the death. There was a memorial service for Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister and one of the most important persons of the twentieth century.
  • The most spectacular part of the Houses of Parliament is on the southern side. In the evening the structure is illuminated by bright lights. It is a popular meeting place for Londoners in love.

The most important cultural and architectural monument in London is the Houses of Parliament. Since ancient times, this place has witnessed the development of Britain. No other landmark in the city can compare to such a bright and complex fate. The majestic structure, which has survived fires and wars, is now accessible to all who wish to visit it.

Houses of Parliament in London

The material tells about the history of the Houses of Parliament in London and provides all the information you need to visit it.

The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster) is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Inside, members of the government propose and debate new laws.

What to see in Parliament

Discussions and meetings: you can watch live debates between politicians. Grab a seat for the public and watch the topics discussed and laws passed. Some debates are more popular than others (usually question time with the prime minister is the most popular). Find out ahead of time where to go and if tickets are required (they are free, but useful at certain times).

Tours: We suggest getting inside the House of Lords and the House of Commons, which form Parliament. Tour options vary depending on whether you are a resident of the United Kingdom or a regular tourist. Tours are available during the opening hours of the Palace of Westminster. Plan in advance if you want to participate in a tour during your visit.

Interesting fact! The Houses of Parliament in London were painted by Claude Monet himself! He worked on the picture for four years.

Tours are available in different languages (French, Spanish, Italian and German). Their duration is 75 minutes. During the tour, tourists are given the opportunity to go deep into the heart of Parliament. You will see everything from the booth where the Prime Minister answers questions and where Elizabeth sits in the House of Lords to the place where politicians go to take their office. The tour is a nice mix of amusing anecdotes from Parliament’s history and explanations of how the British government system works. If you’re not fully informed about politics, you’ll still enjoy the information provided and the ornate rooms where you can roam freely. By the way, we advise you to go to the Musée d’Orsay and see the painting depicting the Houses of Parliament in London.

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The tour lasts about 75 minutes (but could be longer). You will not be allowed to sit down during the entire tour. Therefore, it is worth talking to the tour guide beforehand.

Wheelchair users may have difficulty during the tour. When purchasing tickets, be sure to let them know that you have special requirements.

There are usually about 25 group members on tours. This means that at times it can be quite difficult to hear the guide speak. If you are in the back, don’t be afraid to say you can’t hear well. The guide will definitely take note of the request and raise his voice. Additionally, make sure that you are as close to him as possible.

Security in the Parliament building is organized at the highest level. After entering, you will feel as if you are going through security at an airport. To make sure you’re not late for your tour, go inside 15 minutes before it starts.

The history of the Houses of Parliament in London

The first royal palace was built on the banks of the Thames in the eleventh century. Until 1512, it was the London residence of the kings of England. Politicians often came here for an audience with the king. Then a fire completely destroyed the structure.

The legendary Guy Fawkes attempted to burn down the building in 1604 as part of a plot to overthrow then-King James. He was soon caught and hanged as an admonition to other would-be traitors.

The complex was rebuilt and began to be used for political meetings.

In the early 19th century there was another fire. Then a competition was held to design a new building. The winner was the architect Charles Barry. Construction began in 1840 and took thirty years.

You don’t have to pay for admission tickets. However, it all depends on when you plan to visit the Houses of Parliament in London, what you want to see there and how many photos to take.

On April 1, 2016, the cost of individual and group tours was as follows:

Adult tour price 25.50 GBR Adult audio tour price 18.50 GBR Adult group tour price 20 GBR Adult group audio tour price 15 GBR

Relief is available for people over 60 years old, students and members of the UK Armed Forces.

Opening times vary depending on what time of year and day of the week you choose to go. Check the visit page on the official website of the British Parliament building in London and you will know its opening times.

Parliament consists of various buildings. Once you have decided where to visit, go to the official website (link below). There you can easily get the right address.

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